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What is R?

Is R the right tool for your data analysis needs?

1. A software for statistical computing and graphics

R vs other statistical software such as SPSS, SAS, STATA, Mplus, HLM etc. :


  • Accessibility: R is free and open-source, while other statistical software like SPSS is proprietary software that requires expensive licenses.
  • Extensibility: R has tons of packages available for users to download and use in their analysis. A lot of developers actively maintain their packages and many develop new packages for novel state-of-the-art analysis.
    (Optional: Table of available packages in CRAN, sorted by date of publication)
  • Flexibility: R is highly customizable. You can customize plots, functions or even develop packages for your own needs.
    (Optional: An interesting metaphor)
  • Reproducibility: R code for data manipulation and analysis can be written and saved in scripts, which can be run anytime to reproduce the results given the raw data and scripts.
    (Optional: A reproducible example CRAN Task View: Reproducible Research)
  • Popularity: R has a larger and active user community, which provides a wealth of resources and support.
    (Optional: Getting Help with R)


2. A programming language for statistical computing and graphics

R is a specialized language designed for statistical computing and graphics. It is NOT a general-purpose programming language for software and web development. However, Python, a general-purpose programming language, is popular for data analysis, and shares some of R’s features like open source and a strong community. It can be a hard call if you want to choose only one. Each of them have certain strengths:

Source: Coursera, Python or R for Data Analysis: Which Should I Learn?

This page is meant to help you to decide whether R is the right tool for your analysis needs. What questions do you have about what R is used for and its pros and cons compared to alternatives? Now is a good time for you to share your questions, thoughts and comments.